Taking Arts Off the Books

Charlsie Dewey at the Business Journal notes the transformation of arts education. Or more precisely the separation of arts education from the school curriculum. And it’s not that the school community, or the community at large is indifferent to the benefits of the arts.

In the last several years there has been a strong push by educators and those involved in the arts communities to emphasize the value of arts education. Numerous studies have shown that students who receive an arts education — either through dedicated discipline classes like music, painting and creative writing, or through integrating the arts with other disciplines like math or science — are more successful academically.

Her piece goes on to note the multiple commitments that area arts organizations have made to the field. Many are very fruitfully engaged. No, it’s not the arts community that is at fault, here. It’s our political philosophy.

Call this the AAU model of arts education, the love child of privatization and high stakes testing. We can no longer afford our arts generally because of the cost, so let’s fob it off on the community. This is the very opposite of the vision for public education that has driven our schools.

The place of arts in the curriculum is a political and philosophical statement. It is an assertion that arts are for everyone, not simply a few. They are not an adornment to a life, but help shape even define a life.

I would go another step and say that arts also create the free inner space, a self-awareness and empowerment, that is the prerequisite for self governance.

Without art, we end up with the circus, entertainment as a consumer good. Our children and our society deserve more.

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